10 Things to Get Excited About for WWE in 2022

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2022

10 Things to Get Excited About for WWE in 2022

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The last few years have been rough in WWE. It's amazing to think things were so bad in December 2018 that it felt like a long time coming for the McMahon family to apologize for the product, and things have only gotten worse since then.

    2020 was a mess and it felt as though 2021 had to be better—but in many ways, it wasn't. It could be argued it was even worse, as there wasn't a built-in excuse of performing in front of no crowds to justify the chaos.

    But perhaps there is such a thing as delayed gratification. Maybe all the suffering will be worth it as the calendar flips to a new year in 2022 and can offer a fresh start.

    With a glass half-full mentality and the hope that bleak things don't continue to be the norm, here are 10 things WWE fans should be excited about for this next year!

Royal Rumble

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    Credit: WWE.com

    No matter what is happening in WWE, good or bad, the Royal Rumble pay-per-view is always a treat.

    Even if the card is nothing but filler and the titular Battle Royal extravaganzas, those two matches are filled with enough intrigue and value that they drive much of the excitement at the beginning of the year as well as act as sparks to ignite The Road to WrestleMania.

    You never know who is going to return from injury, which legends might make comebacks, whether someone new will win the match and start their journey toward a world title, or if there will be any major programs started from what happens in this one event.

    For two hours, fans can shut off their brains, count down the clock and eagerly await the next entrant. Even if their preferred choice doesn't win, it's normally a thrilling 60 minutes up until that point.

    This year on Jan. 29, it's hard to pick the winners. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns feel like they're on a collision course, but both hold titles. Does that mean Bobby Lashley wins and fights Lesnar, or someone else will be locking horns with The Tribal Chief, assuming he's recovered from COVID-19 in time?

    Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair have strangleholds over the women's divisions, too. No clear challengers have been set up. Are we in store for some major shifts in the roster or any big surprises?

    Even if WrestleMania doesn't pan out, Royal Rumble always gives it an interesting start, so that's worth getting excited about, particularly after how WWE Day 1 went down.

Maybe WWE Is Done with the Mass Releases and Chaos

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    Credit: WWE.com

    At a certain point, the budget cuts literally have to stop or WWE won't have anything left to cut costs from.

    The company is already well past the point of getting rid of enough employees that it has hurt the product. That includes on-screen with the lack of star power and the increase in repetitive feuds; behind the scenes, where the website has more errors and lazy updates than ever before; WWE Network and Peacock producing virtually no content; and the company doesn't appear to be growing but regressing.

    After retaining Kevin Owens by getting him to sign a new deal, maybe WWE has learned its lesson and the two years of mass firings won't carry over to 2022. Maybe there's even hope WWE will start signing new talent beyond just the "Next in Line" program and could bring fresh faces to the roster.

    At the very least, if WWE isn't focused on who to cut and disrupting the creative process every few weeks, there's a chance the writers can actually start writing storylines again that can be carried out to a conclusion.

    Too much chaos and lack of direction happened in 2021. Let's get excited that 2022 could be a return to stability with less baffling creative counterbalancing all this hectic management.

NXT 2.0 Superstars Finding Their Strides

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    Credit: WWE.com

    With the shift to NXT 2.0, WWE didn't just slap a new coat of paint (literally and figuratively) on the brand and call it a day. Many new Superstars have debuted, and more are on the way.

    By and large, though, those Superstars have had a rough go. Only a handful are being featured prominently enough to be remembered, and that's from someone who actively watches NXT and keeps track of everyone on the roster. Casual fans who tune in mostly to Raw and SmackDown likely couldn't name half the NXT crew if you gave them multiple-choice options.

    Those noteworthy Superstars like Tony D'Angelo, Harland and Solo Sikoa are in the midst of a monumental growing period where we'll see vast strides in a short time frame.

    The Carmelo Hayes from December 2021 isn't the same one from the NXT Breakout Tournament. He has become much more confident and been finding his voice, so we can assume the same will happen for others.

    It took Grayson Waller several character shifts before he landed on his cocky heel persona right now, which is the best one so far. Likewise, someone like Fallon Henley could go from just a name to a title contender and a top prospect in the coming months.

    We may look at 2022 as the rise of Draco Anthony. Tiffany Stratton could become the best heel on the brand.

    It's exciting to see the progression these young stars will go through as they come into their own.

NXT Call-Ups to Raw and SmackDown

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Likewise with the new recruits in NXT, there should be considerable growth with the more seasoned talent from the black and gold era as well as even some NXT 2.0 Superstars who are able to move up to the main roster.

    No year has gone by since NXT's creation without at least one call-up, if not dozens. While some don't even get a chance to succeed like Hit Row, Karrion Kross and Tegan Nox, others do reach new heights.

    Damian Priest had an amazing 2021. Maybe just as much success, if not more, will happen for Santos Escobar.

    We could see Raquel Gonzalez or Io Shirai become Raw or SmackDown women's champion this year.

    Maybe MSK will be carried over to Raw to continue their friendship with Riddle to form a stable, or Cameron Grimes will become the focal point of the 24/7 Championship, or Dakota Kai will become the next big thing in the women's division.

    At the beginning of the year, all things are possible. It's fun to speculate on who might be called up, but it's even more fun to watch that happen over the coming months.

The Impending RK-Bro Implosion

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    Credit: WWE.com

    RK-Bro has been one of the most entertaining aspects of WWE programming in months. Somehow, the pairing of Riddle and Randy Orton breached the barrier of awkward and turned into undeniable chemistry.

    However, no tag teams last forever, especially in WWE.

    Thankfully, rather than simply going their separate ways or being split in the draft, the rift that will break apart RK-Bro is guaranteed to end in a program, as WWE would be beyond foolish not to capitalize on that feud.

    Most likely, these two will drop the Raw Tag Team Championship in the coming months. That will create an opening for The Viper to get angry enough to lash out and vent his frustrations on his tag team partner.

    In his mind, he'll say he's been trying to be patient and teach Riddle, as he saw some of himself in him, but The Original Bro's goofiness just prevented them from being more successful and it cost them the titles, so he's done with it.

    Riddle's heartbreak and their subsequent matches once they start trading blows—most likely beginning with an RKO betrayal out of nowhere—will be another interesting avenue to see how these two pair off.

    This could be the WrestleMania match that steals the show and a sleeper pick for Feud of the Year by the time 2022 is through.

Bayley's Return to Action

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Bayley has been missing from action since June, but recently went live on Instagram and said she's doing better and gearing up for her return.

    Despite being one of the most prominent women in WWE as a member of the Four Horsewomen and an incredibly popular Superstar who had one of the longest reigns in women's title history, Bayley was largely pushed aside come WrestleMania 37.

    After a weak WrestleMania 36 that was clearly just a stall because WWE didn't want to pull the trigger on a feud with Sasha Banks in front of no crowd, perhaps 2022 will be a chance for her to fully get back on track and have a Road to WrestleMania 38 that she deserves.

    Even if she's not back until after that event, her return in general is something to be excited about. She's great and is always a benefit for the roster, so her absence has been felt.

More Feuds for Edge

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Edge has made it clear since his return to the ring that he has a list of Superstars he wants to work with. Every interview, he names people like Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins, who he's already checked off.

    Thankfully, there are still a handful of names he's mentioned on a frequent basis who he hasn't feuded with, but will likely get around to in 2022.

    Among them is Kevin Owens, who just recently re-signed with WWE, meaning that program is still an option and not a missed opportunity.

    Sami Zayn is another. Their promos alone would be more than worth several weeks of segments.

    AJ Styles is always high on his list. Once his split with Omos has concluded, The Phenomenal One should be fair game for a match or two, too.

    Drew McIntyre, Finn Balor, Damian Priest and more could all have great storylines with The Rated-R Superstar.

    Let's not take it for granted how special it is that Edge is still wrestling. It's a gift he was able to come out of retirement, and every feud he works is something to be excited about.

The Progression of Austin Theory's Career

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Most of the time, NXT Superstars have a rough road ahead of them on the main roster. They often suffer huge character shifts that don't work, are repackaged with lame new gimmicks and toned down so they can't be themselves, and wind up not progressing too high up on the totem pole.

    Austin Theory, though, has seemingly been given the rare stamp of approval to go far, as he's been put with Vince McMahon on a weekly basis.

    What started out as a ridiculous promotional tie-in for Dwayne Johnson's Netflix film Red Notice has turned into a recurring bit where Theory is trying to impress Mr. McMahon.

    The boss could have just as easily made this a one-time thing, yelled at him and never referenced him again. But he continues to show up to impart wisdom and play opposite the prospect.

    Where is this leading? Is it going to manifest some sort of crossover with Steve Austin at WrestleMania in Dallas because of their names and how big of a pop it'll get if Theory is given a Stone Cold Stunner?

    Could it just be a vehicle to get more eyes on him so fans are invested quicker and are more on board with a fast-track push to the top a la Orton and Brock Lesnar?

    The future looks bright for Theory, so it'll be interesting to see how much progress he makes in 2022, as this could be his year to truly break out.

Roman Reigns Reaches the Next Level

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    Credit: WWE.com

    For years, WWE made sure no matter what the crowd reaction, Reigns was booked as the top of the food chain.

    The Big Dog, as he was called, did nearly everything he could possibly do. He won all the titles outside of dropping weight for the Cruiserweight Championship (that WWE doesn't even care about to begin with), won the Royal Rumble, main-evented WrestleMania numerous times and even defeated The Undertaker at The Showcase of The Immortals.

    Shy of winning Money in the Bank, which he's never needed, what else was there left for him to accomplish?

    Then, he transitioned to The Tribal Chief character and has found a new level to transcend to: pure living legend.

    So far, we've seen him hold the Universal Championship just shy of The Beast Incarnate's length, but it's almost guaranteed he'll pass that, provided everything goes well with his COVID-19 diagnosis. Assuming WWE stays the course with his push, even if it takes a few weeks for him to return, and he isn't stripped of the title in the meantime, this should be no problem.

    He's defeated John Cena, pinned both Edge and Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania and continues to add more credibility to his claims of being above everyone else.

    2022 should be the year Reigns crosses the threshold from "almost one of the greatest ever" to legitimately in the discussion. He could very well go into 2023 still holding the Universal Championship, shattering Lesnar's duration record and working his way toward beating The Rock, too.

    This is uncharted territory and this year may be historic for Reigns, so it's exciting to watch that unfold.

The Unknown

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Anything can happen in WWE. While that's incredibly terrifying, it's also exhilarating.

    Just as much as 2022 can be filled with absolute madness and head-scratching decisions, there's also always a chance something surprising in a good way can happen.

    2021 saw unpredictable things like the return of Christian to action after years on the shelf, the King of the Ring coming back with the Queen's Crown tournament and Bobby Lashley finally ascending the throne as WWE champion.

    The unknown means, at any moment, something amazing can happen. Every episode of Raw could have the best match of the year. History could be made at any pay-per-view.

    You never know if the next thing you watch will be your favorite thing you've ever seen as a fan, so some hopeful optimism may feel unjustified, but it's better than the alternative.


    Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.